Balloon Federation of America
The Balloon Federation of America held its winter board meeting in Fort Myers, Florida the last weekend in January. The board reviewed several issues including hiring an Executive Director, dues increase, awards, and committee appointments.
The main topic of discussion was that of hiring an Executive Director. New board member, Rob Schantz approached Wally Miller several months ago about Mr. Miller becoming Executive Director. Mr. Miller is the National Aeronautic Association’s representative to the BFA board.
Mr. Miller indicated that he would be interested in assuming the position and had some ideas that he felt would enhance the organization. BFA President Mike Wallace introduced the idea of Mr. Miller becoming the Executive Director at the recent meeting. Mr. Miller made his presentation to the board. The board then voted unanimously to hire Mr. Miller as its Executive Director.
Mr. Miller who lives in Monument, Colorado will work from his office there. The terms of the agreement call for a one year contract and that Mr. Miller is a management consultant who will advise the BFA but, have the title of Executive Director.
Mr. Miller has resigned his position as NAA representative to the BFA which will now be assumed by NAA President and CEO Jack Cole.
Rob Schantz introduced two additional programs for the board to consider. The first was a presentation from Independent Lifestyles Association who sent a representative from Colorado. Through membership in this group BFA members will be able to receive discounts on hotel/motel rooms, prescription drugs, and a number of other products.
The second presentation was made by an insurance representative from Jacksonville, Florida who detailed a health insurance program for BFA members. Schantz told Balloon Life, "The program offers very competitive rates and does not exclude balloon activity." Schantz went on to say, "I am trying to bring programs that will give people a reason to belong to the BFA and at the same time generate revenue for the organization."
Both programs were endorsed my a unanimous vote by the board. In another unanimous vote the BFA board voted to raise basic member’s dues from $40 per year to $45 per year. This increase had been discussed during the Albuquerque board meeting in October and was finalized at the winter meeting.
Ted Wirch resigned his position as Government Relations chair. Mr. Wirch has been a strong supporter of an instructor rating for balloons. The BFA’s initial support and then reversal to oppose such a rating has, in part, frustrated Mr. Wirch. Mr. Wirch feels that his, and the balloon community’s, credibility with the FAA has been tainted over the reversal on the instructor rating issue. Lynn Harris of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma has been appointed to serve as Government Relations chair.
The board endorsed Carl Eidsness, Bill Bussey, and Steve Fossett for Montgolfier Diplomas for their record setting flights in 1995. In addition, the board endorsed Alan and Victor Fraenckel for a Montgolfier Diploma for their contribution to ballooning for the development of the wind reader. The board endorsed recommending Karl Stephan for the NAA’s Elder Statesman of Aviation award.
The treasurer reported that the BFA ended calendar year 1995 with approximately an $8,000 surplus. The original budget had called for a small deficit for the year.
Richard Branson, Per Lindstrand, and Rory McCarthy and their Global Challenger equipment and support team moved to Marrakech, Morocco in mid- January. The team is waiting favorable a weather pattern to launch in their attempt to be the first to fly non-stop around the world by balloon.
Steve Fossett’s attempt in January ended prematurely (see The Race is On! page 10). Henk Brink’s team apparently is looking for a new crew member. It is possible that Brink will attempt the flight with only two crew members if favorable weather pattern developes.
Bad weather since the Virgin team’s arrival in Marrakech has allowed extra time to prepare the equipment, check systems, and continue crew training. Additional time has been spend holding press meetings, including tethering in the rain to get just the right action shots.
Once the weather team gives the go ahead for launch it will take some 48 hours to prepare the balloon-20 hours of which will be needed to inflate. It took 80 people 8 hours to pack the balloon for shipment.
In late January the Virgin flight team returned to England. They will return to Marrakech as the weather becomes more favorable. There has been some speculation by the Branson team that the flight attempt will not be made this winter season.
Should the Virgin Global Challenger take off from Marrakech the flight path is expected to cross North Africa picking up the Sub-tropical Jetstream. Then across Iran, Iraq, touching Afghanistan, then into India, China, Southern Japan and across the Pacific Ocean to arrive in the United States, hopefully, close to San Diego. After crossing the U.S. and leaving around Northern Florida it is hoped the balloon will pick up the Polar Jetstream to cross the Atlantic. It is expected that much of the flight will be flown around 30,000 feet.
In late January the team did not have permission to cross Libya. What impact this might have on a flight from Marrakech is unclear.
U.S. Team Championship
In January Gwinnett Festival, Inc. voted to cancel the planned U.S. Hot Air Balloon National Team Championship scheduled for June. Warren Bruno, event director, blamed the demise of the event this year on "money." Bruno and other event officials stated that enough sponsorship money could not be raised to support the ten day event. Originally scheduled in mid-June, the organizers were having a difficult time competing for sponsorship dollars with the 1996 Summer Olympics to be held in nearby Atlanta, Georgia a few weeks later.
Gwinnett hosted the first ever Team Championship (Balloon Life, August 95) last June. The event had been well received by balloonists who participated. Due to late afternoon thunderstorms and competitors flying at locations away from the field attendance did not live up to pre-event expectations.
The Gwinnett organizers have not given up on ballooning. Although they have cancelled their contract with the Balloon Federation of America’s Competition Division they do plan to have an event.
Scheduled for June 13-16 at the Gwinnett County Airport/Briscoe Field, the new incarnation is titled "International Special Shapes Balloon Festival." Organizers plan a more family-oriented festival than originally planned. They hope to have 30 special shape balloons and 45 fiesta flyers.
Hot Air Airship Championship
The 5th World Hot Air Airship Championship was held in Aosta, Italy, January 12- 17. German hot air airship pilot Jens Petersen won the title of World Champion. The only American participating was Brian Boland who finished 11 in the field of 12 competitors.
Final results: 1. Jens Petersen, Germany, 12946 points; 2. C.A. Besnard, Switzerland, 12165 points; 3. J.A. Besnard, Switzerland, 12143 points; 4. R. Hasenclever, Germany, 11511 points; 5. T. Sage, Germany, 11310 points; 6. F. Buhlmann, Switzerland, 10803 points; 7. C. Molnar, Hungary, 9680 points; 8. O. Lindstrom, Sweden, 9656 points; 9. M. Hruby, Czech Republic, 8815 points; 10. P. Contegiacomo, Italy, 6050 points; 11. B. Boland, United States, 4195 points; 12. N. Charbonnier, Italy, 300 points.
Championship Director was David Rapp of the United States.
Soukup & Thomas IB&AM
Soukup & Thomas International Balloon & Airship Museum, Mitchell, South Dakota, houses and displays what is considered the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection on the history of gas and hot air ballooning and airships. The Museum’s mission is to preserve the history of ballooning in addition to other facets of light-than- air aviation.
In 1989, co-founders Jacques W. Soukup and Kirk S. Thomas donated their collection of ballooning artifacts to establish this world-class museum. The Museum is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization, and any donation of artifacts, modern items, or cash is tax deductible. The museum welcomes even the smallest items, for they too are significant.
To help in the preservation of lighter-than-air history, the display of which is enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors from around the world each year, contact Soukup & Thomas IB&AM, 700 North Main Street, Mitchell, SD 57301, phone (605) 996-2311 or fax (605) 996-2218.
Two recent propane accidents in balloonist’s homes points out the danger in storing propane cylinders. In one accident two balloons were lost due to fire. In the second not only was a balloon and trailer lost but, the balloonist’s home was rendered uninhabitable.
The second accident occurred when propane tanks were being heated inside on a trailer. The trailer was in the attached garage to a house. A pressure relief valve on at least one tank began to release propane gas. When the owner opened the door to the trailer an explosion rocked the neighborhood.
The pilot was sent to the hospital with scorched lungs and first and second degree burns. The explosion blew the back off the trailer, knocked down three walls of the garage, and forced the condemnation of a fairly new home.
Rich Andrews, a former engineer with Aerostar International, offers the following tips regarding the use of heat tapes on propane tanks:
1. Use a timer so that the tapes do not run for an excessive amount of time;
2. Do not heat the tanks in an enclosed area, particularly in an enclosed trailer;
3. Do not disable the thermostat function on heat tapes;
4. If you do use heat tapes, he suggests, use self regulating heat tapes. His suggestion, (Editor's note: the name suggested has been removed at the behest of a law firm representing the chemical company who's product name was mentioned). Andrews says that they are more expensive, but do not get as hot. He adds that they are very well designed.
The National Aeronautic Association has approved record requests of Lesley Davies and Carol Davis for their gas balloon flight in October (see Balloon Life, America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race, November 95). The record is in category AA-6-15, Feminine, distance-1,448.52 miles and duration-60 hours and 12 minutes. The records have been forwarded to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in Paris for approval as World records.
Five Years Ago in Balloon Life